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Omens are looking good for Mickey Harte and Red Hands


Standing tall: Joe McMahon was imperious against Meath last week

Standing tall: Joe McMahon was imperious against Meath last week

?INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Standing tall: Joe McMahon was imperious against Meath last week

THE number 10 is certain to figure highly in Tyrone manager Mickey Harte's pre-match rhetoric for tomorrow's vital All-Ireland qualifier against Tipperary at Semple Stadium, Thurles (3pm).

Ten years have elapsed since his side played an unparalleled 10 games in winning their second All-Ireland crown in 2005 via the qualifiers route.

Now Harte is hoping that his players can replicate the spirit that saw the Red Hands negotiate the most hazardous course possible to become the high kings of football once again.

Ryan McMenamin was a teak-tough defender in that Tyrone side alongside Joe McMahon and Sean Cavanagh, the only two players from 2005 still on active duty with the O'Neill county.

And, like Harte, McMenamin believes that Tyrone's softly-softly approach this year could yet pay handsome dividends in terms of reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

"I like the way Tyrone are going about their business," says McMenamin.

"They are doing things very quietly and I feel they will take a win no matter what way it comes against Tipperary tomorrow, just as they took victory over Meath last Saturday in what was by no means a classic encounter. "It's going to be a tough game down in Tipperary but, look, if Mickey's boys can get over this there is a real chance that they could get into the All-Ireland quarter-finals and, let's be honest, not many people have been giving them a chance of doing that."

McMenamin played in nine of those 10 memorable games in winning the second of his three All-Ireland medals in 2005, missing out on the clash with Monaghan because of suspension.

Tyrone beat Down at the first hurdle in the Ulster Championship, then got the better of Cavan after a semi-final replay but were beaten by Armagh after another replay in the Ulster final.

They then beat Monaghan in their opening All-Ireland qualifier tie before getting the better of Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, again after a replay.

A renewal of acquaintance with Armagh in the semi-final lent an extra dimension to the closing stages of the All-Ireland series and on this occasion Tyrone came out on top before going on to conquer Kerry in the decider.

"It was hectic going but there was a great spirit in that Tyrone side and if this is displayed again tomorrow, then I think this team has it in them to move on," maintains McMenamin.

"Joe McMahon and Sean Cavanagh have been round a lot of corners with Tyrone and I think they can show the way in terms of leadership and inspiration tomorrow.

"Tipperary are an emerging side, they are at home and they will feel they owe Tyrone one because of the manner in which they lost the recent All-Ireland Under-21 final against them."

McMahon's imperious display in the centre-half-back position against Meath last Saturday and Cavanagh's ability to come out from full-forward and bolster the midfield area in the latter stages of the match were major contributory factors in the Red Hands' win.

But McMenamin feels that new kids on the block such as Mark Bradley, Tiernan McCann and Rory Brennan can make a big impact tomorrow.

"These boys have been gaining in confidence and adding to the skill levels so they will have a big part to play," adds McMenamin.

McCann made a huge impact when introduced as a second-half substitute last week-end landing three points in a match-winning performance.

Manager Harte, meanwhile, continues to tread cautiously as he prepares to enter unknown territory. "Tyrone have not played a championship match in Semple Stadium so this in itself will be a new challenge for us," points out Harte.

"We were not at ourselves for maybe 55 minutes of the match against Meath last week-end but we still managed to close it out. On some days, things you might try will not come off for you but you have got to be patient."

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Joe McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; T McCann, M Bradley, R Brennan; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.

Derry (v Galway): T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, D McBride; L McGoldrick, B Rogers, S L McGoldrick; N Holly, F Doherty; B Heron, M Lynch, E Lynn; D Heavron, E Bradley, C O'Boyle.

Belfast Telegraph